Over the weekend, me my neighbor (also named Zach) and my caving buddy Matt went to Eagle’s Nest Cave and got high up into the mountains enough that the rain in the lower elevation turned into flurries of snow and we had to park earlier than we planned. After a nice trudge through snow drifts, we had trouble finding Ash Hole cave which was our original destination, figuring it was probably buried in snow. Eagle’s Nest is a more horizontal cave, its entrance protected by a cliff wall, so we found it with no more trouble than climbing down a cliff and bush-wacking through rose bushes and other shrubs. It was a beautiful cave but wet and muddied. I babied my Nikon as much as the conditions allowed to get a few good shots of the cave and our adventures there. The wetness of the cave is actually a really good thing. Dripping water means a cave is “alive” the formations are still growing, water erosion is still occurring and the impossibly slow formation of a cave is still ongoing. It also means there is water for a cave ecosystem, from strange microbes that in some caves are being studied for their potential for medical research to bats and pack rats. We saw a few small clusters of crane flies from the tipulidae family; Zach saw a cricket and there were a few small bats hibernating as we passed. It’s important if you ever see a bat to be as quiet as possible and watch in only for a moment, waking bats can be extremely dangerous to the little mammals. I’ve worked on projects surveying hibernating bats in caves near the Northern rim of the Grand Canyon and some monitoring projects in Colorado. Despite bats importance to the world in hunting millions of insects and pollinating plants such as agave, they’re endangered by things like white nose syndrome, so please be kind to bats.
Besides the cave life, there were the amazing formations, soda straws, rimstone, moonmilk, stalactites and stalagmites. And on the drive in and out, we saw deer, sage grouse (possibly the much debated Gunnison Sage Grouse), a turkey and a Wyoming ground squirrel. It was an amazing day and I hope to go caving again soon.